Indiecomics publisher Fantagraphics Books is the latest comics house to add mangapublishing to its list. The Seattle-based company known for such artists as theHernandez Bros, creators of the acclaimed Loveand Rockets series, and for historical collections like The Complete Peanuts, will roll out anew manga line starting in September. Matt Thorn, Japanese translator, manga talentscout and professor at Kyoto Seika University, will secure Japanese licenses,oversee translations and will also act as editor for the line.
Todebut the new line of Fantagraphics manga, the publisher will release, Drunken Dream, a collection of shortstories from 1971-2007 by mangaka and pioneer of shojo manga Moto Hagio. Fantagraphicsjoins such notable U.S.indie comics publishers as Top Shelf and Drawn & Quarterly that alsopublishing manga.
TheFantagraphics manga line will publish four releases per year, with print runsprojected to fall between 6000-8000 copies. "My approach is to publish smart,artistic, but accessible work that is well translated and has high productionvalues," Thorn said. Thorn said he has grown weary of manga's current place inthe U.S.market as disposable entertainment. The manga line will follow inFantagraphics's tradition of publishing comics with literary merit.
"Thereis a vast mount of [manga] material out there for intelligent adults," Thornsaid, "and yes, I think there is a market. In fact, I think it will become amajor market." Fantagraphics president and co-publisher, Gary Groth, is alsounconcerned about catering to an established market. "Our publishing philosophyis, if we publish something good, and we market it well, it will find areadership."
Fantagraphicshas published manga in the past; in 1995 they released an anthology ofunderground manga titled Sake Jockand roughly eight years ago they published Anywherebut Here, a collection of comic strips by Tori Miki. However, manga hasbeen largely in Groth's peripheral vision, and both Groth and Fantagraphicswere slow to warm to the c category. Groth said his reluctance to publish mangawas due to his perception that commercial manga lacked "literary worth."
However,the more Groth learned of the medium and of mangaka Moto Hagio, who Thorninterviewed for The Comics Journal,Fantagraphics publication of comics criticism, the more his opinion of mangachanged. In 2005, the idea of publishing manga grew into a reality. Hagio, whohelped reshape the comics industry in Japanand was the beginning of Japan'scurrent system of women creating comics for girls and women, will be the guestof Fantagraphics at this summer's San Diego Comic-Con International.
Thornplans to publish more of Hagio's work in the future, making her a pillar inFantgraphics's manga line. Fantagraphics will also publish the nine volumeseries Wandering Son by ShimuraTakako, the story of two middle schoolers grappling with gender identity.
"Theinitial release may give the impression that we're just targeting women," Thornsaid. "But we are aiming for a gender balance, as well as a balance ofmainstream and more Fantagraphics-like underground work. The common thread iswell-crafted stories for thinking adult readers."